Amid rising prosecutions, Reporters Without Borders demands decriminalization of press crimes in Peru

Despite Peruvian President Ollanta Humala's campaign promise to decriminalize press crimes, the number of jail and probation sentences against journalists continue to rise in the Andean nation, Reporters Without Borders (RSF in French) claimed on Jan. 5.

With more than 25 cases against journalists in 2011, the National Association of Peruvian Journalists (ANP in Spanish) released a statement affirming that the judicial system has become a mechanism for public servants to intimidate and silence independent journalists. In light of these cases, RSF has joined ANP to call for the decriminalization of press crimes in Peru.

In 2011, three Peruvian journalists were killed and a radio host was jailed for six months on a defamation charge.

The Knight Center's blog Journalism in the Americas has also reported on the prison sentences against columnist Luis Torres Montero, blogger José Alejandro Godoy, journalists Fritz Du Bois and Gressler Ojeda, as well as Hans Francisco Andrade Chávez.

Currently, Gastón Darío Medina Sotomayor, reporter for Cadena Sur TV-Canal 15 and Radio Nova FM in the city of Ica, is waiting on an appeal decision on Monday, Jan. 9, which will determine whether or not his sentence of three years in prison and $3,700 fine will stand, reported RSF. The reporter was accused of calling a local representative a "turncoat," a phrase used to describe Congressmen who took payments to abandon their political parties for former-President Alberto Fujimori's Peru 2000 party.

In the most recent case to date, the director of the biweekly publication Quincenario Marco Regional Nuevo Confidencial, in the northern province of Chiclayo, was sentenced to a one year suspended prison sentence and a $3,700 fine on Jan. 3, for publishing complaints from students of a scam at a private university, reported RSF.

Director of Ribereña Noticias, Teobaldo Meléndez Fachín, received a three-year conditional prison sentence for defamation after denouncing a bank fraud scheme that implicated the mayor of Yurimaguas, reported Huaral Noticias. If the journalist is unable to pay the $11,000 fine, the prison sentence would come into effect, reported RSF.